IF thou desirest, O my soul, to know the measure which thou must adopt in loving thy God, it is without measure. When He commanded thee to love thy neighbour, He set before thee a certain rate or proportion, saying that thou shouldst love him as thyself, and not more than thyself. But in commanding thee to love His Divine Majesty, He assigned no limits, but rather declared without restriction that thou shouldst love Him, because God is to be loved to the very utmost extent that thou canst love.

O Lord, Thou art so good, that however much Thy creature may love Thee, it can never love Thee as much as Thou deservest to be loved, and for this reason the measure wherewith it should love Thee is to love Thee without measure. So saith the Scripture: "Glorify the Lord as much as ever you can, for He will yet far exceed, and His magnificence is wonderful".[Ecclsiasticus. xliii. 32.] Love thy God, then, my soul, as much as He is capable of being loved, and this will be sufficient for thee. Why art thou surprised at what I say to thee? Perhaps thou knowest not that the Scripture commands us to praise Him according to the excellency of His greatness. Psalms cl. 2.

Thou wilt tell me that no one can love Him in this manner except Himself, nor praise Him either; for He Himself alone can be equal to so loving Himself, Whose love is infinite as is His greatness also. Thou sayest well; but if thou canst not praise Him sufficiently, thou art not to cease from praising Him; and if thou canst not love Him as thou oughtest, love as much as thou canst, for thou hast no reason to fear excess or superfluity in love, where the faculty and the power is far surpassed by the glory and excellence of the person loved; and where the power of the lover and the eloquence of him who praises are exceeded by the worth and merit of the person praised.

The seraphs burn, and the angelic powers are inflamed with love towards Him, as it is written: "Who maketh His angels spirits and His ministers a burning fire".[Psalms ciii. 4.] They never cease from this ardent love, because it never seems to them that it is fervent enough. And what is all the love of this world compared with the fervour and flame of those angelic spirits and blessed souls? All our love is a great lukewarmness if it be compared with the fragrance and glow of these beings.

I love Thee, then, my God and my Lord, without measure or limit, because in this manner hast Thou loved us; and Thou, Who hast made all things with weight, number and measure, hast in the exercise of Thy love, set neither measure nor bounds to it. In this way alone, O our God, Thou hast exceeded all measure, transcended all order, and surpassed all reason and understanding; and while preserving order in all things from the beginning, in loving us Thou hast not cared to preserve any method or order, but hast been beyond all bounds most bounteous and exuberant.

Pardon, I beseech Thee, O Lord, pardon Thy servant who speaketh thus of Thee with joy and great boldness, for Thou wast bountiful, most bountiful in loving us, O our God. Was it not beneficent beyond measure that the Son of God was hung upon the cross for a vile worm? Is it not a great extremity of love that the Creator should die, in order that the creature might live? Is it not a strange and excessive instance of love that the Maker should lose His life for the work which He had made, and the innocent for the guilty, the just for the sinner? If this, O Lord, is a measure, it is a measure with reference to Thy wisdom; for in respect to all created intelligences, this is extreme, a very great extreme, and exceeding bountifulness.

In danger we naturally put up the hand and arm to defend the head, which is the principal member of the body; but it was an excessive evidence of Thy great love that Thou, my God and Lord, being our Head, didst place Thyself in danger of death, and didst die upon the cross, in order to shelter us, Thy members. And so likewise Thy holy apostle, filled with the Spirit, was not afraid to say that the love wherewith Thou lovedst us was excessive [Ephesians ii. 4,7., note 1], in that being the Son of God Thou gavest Thyself for certain vile and despised slaves.

O truly excessive and very great love, which transcends the bounds of all love! The work of our redemption the prophet calls "plentiful redemption,"[Psalms cxxix. 7.] but the apostle more properly entitles it exceeding and beneficent. Thy love was exceeding great, since in Thy Passion Thou didst pay for us more than we owed. Even an excessive satisfaction, inasmuch as one drop of Thy Blood would have sufficed for our atonement by reason of the infinite nature of the individual victim, whereas Thou gavest it all, showing the exceeding great love which Thou hadst for us.

It is thus that I am to love Thee, my God, as exceedingly, as truly, and as resolutely, so that there should be neither bounds nor measure in my love. I will go forth of myself and out of myself, loving Thee without being in myself, inebriated with this Thy holy love, and transported out of myself; for if love be genuine, it must harass[note 2] a man out of himself, because love surprises and creates ecstasy.

On this account the Bridegroom in the Song of Songs, while pondering on his love for the Bride, compares it to wine[Song of Songs i. 1.], because of the property which wine possesses of transporting him who drinks much of it out of himself, and the Bride says to him: "The king brought me to his banqueting house" [The king "brought me into the cellar of wine," and "he set in order charity in me"][Song of Songs ii. 4.]; and because he was speaking of love in referring to this wine, he added immediately after, "and he inclined my will to various degrees of love".

The soul when wounded will be able to extricate itself in the grace of forgiveness and endurance of injuries; but this is very easy and very lovely, in consideration of the employment in which Thy love has exercised itself. O my God, my infinite good! one ought to have the wisdom of the angels, in order to declare this thoughtfulness of Thine in our behalf! I am sure that whoever was well instructed in this matter would be perfectly enamoured of Thy Divine majesty and goodness. Thou didst set Thy love on the cross; and on the gall and vinegar; ours is fixed rather on honeycombs.

O what a hard law was that in our behalf, my God; and how sweet and easy is ours in respect to Thee! since even in dying Thou dost not fully fill up the law of Thy love, while even in living in Thy kingdom and glory we cannot fill up as we ought the law of our love. But so far as I am able and it may be possible for me I must love Thee in this life more than my own interests and more than myself. For this reason Thou didst ask Thy Apostle Saint Peter whether he loved Thee more than the others[John xxi. 15.], because Thou desirest to be loved by us more than all other things, and above them all, without limit and without measure. All other virtues admit of a measure and degree, but only the virtue of love and charity does not permit it.

1. ton huperballonta plouton tes charitos autou. [back]

2. Literally, draw or tease a man [i.e., playing piece] out of the points or houses of a backgammon board. [back]